Biz Beat

Remember the Fat Cat? Now you can get a cup of coffee, or even find religion, there

Employees take a break at the Heart & Soul Coffee house in Modesto, Calif., on Thursday, September 28, 2017. The coffee house opens Oct. 9.
Employees take a break at the Heart & Soul Coffee house in Modesto, Calif., on Thursday, September 28, 2017. The coffee house opens Oct. 9.

To go from a raucous nightclub that once saw the likes of Snoop Dogg and Rob Zombie grace its stage to a tea-totaling coffee shop is quite the leap of faith.

But the evolution of the former Fat Cat Music House & Lounge, which for 15 years hosted big music names and countless dance parties as one of the city’s hottest nightspots, is now almost complete. On Monday the new Heart & Soul Coffee will open in the downtown spot. Last September The House Modesto church, based on the corner of Coffee Road and Briggsmore Avenue, purchased the building with the intent of turning it into a coffee house and gathering space.

Now after a year of renovation and work, the public will be able to step into the reborn 11,000-square-foot, two-story space. Gone are the booths, soundboard and beer-soaked floors. Instead the new coffee house has a clean, open feel with widely spaces tables for large or small groups and couches for more intimate seating. New flooring, a brick accent wall and fresh coat of white paint gives Heart & Soul a modern feel.

The upstairs, which was overflow for large crowds and big shows, will be used for private events, meetings and rentals. The former Fat Cat VIP lounge, famous for its red-textured back wall and window overlooking the dance floor, is now a temporary daycare center. Once the coffee shop is up and running it will become another rental space for private groups and meetings.

“The second we open the door we are automatically Modesto’s largest coffee shop, since it was originally built as a club and concert hall,” said Heart & Soul Coffee General Manager Toby Bowker. “Now we’ve got it set up so people can come in in groups or be secluded. Use the free wi-fi, hang out. It’s the best of both worlds.”

As a nightclub the Fat Cat fit 500, and the new coffee shop can accommodate that many if need be. But for the most part the cafe will run on the ground floor.

And, unlike the Fat Cat which was strictly 21 and over, Heart & Soul is all-ages with no alcohol served on the premises. Bowker said the intent is not to compete with the other places in the downtown area that serve coffee, but to give the public another option and something different.

The menu includes coffee shop staples like the cappuccino, cubano and macchiato as well as house specialties including a “lumberjack” latte with maple and cinnamon, “bon bon” with cappuccino and condensed milk, and nitro cold brew. A selection of locally made pastries will also be sold. And, yes, they even serve tea.

One thing people should not expect with their espresso is a sermon. Even though the cafe is run by The House, head barista Michael Hughes said spreading the good news will not be part of each order.

“We will be operating like a normal coffee shop. We don’t want to push anything people aren’t expecting. We just want to love on people and serve quality coffee,” he said.

The space has also been used for a Sunday evening service since Easter weekend this year. The cafe has kept the Fat Cat’s stage, which they use for music during its worship service. They also plan to have music at the cafe. The grand opening ceremony at its 930 11th St. location will be at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 9. Then the Heart & Soul Coffee hours will be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Elsewhere around the Business Beat:

Relax, Modesto furniture buyers, Slater’s Home Furnishings is not closing. Repeat, Slater’s is not closing.

The longtime Modesto furniture purveyor is having a large inventory sell-off right now, complete with brightly colored “sale” signs across its downtown storefront windows. That has prompted some to worry the J Street store was going out of business. But owner Tom Slater says nothing of the sort his happening.

Instead he is restructuring the inventory to keep up with industry trends. He expects to change out about a third of the merchandise, and people can start seeing the new items in store by mid-October.

This is the second time the company, which opened in Fresno in 1912 and Modesto in 1953, has done such a large inventory restructuring. The last was in 2008 and Slater said he received the same kind of worried calls from customers. The company’s West 18th Street location in Merced will have the same sale starting Oct. 14.

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